With just six months in the top job, Bartlett Regional Hospital chief executive officer Rose Lawhorne resigned from the top job on Saturday, according to a news release from hospital officials.
City and Borough of Juneau City Manager, Rorie Watt, said Lawhorne resigned amid news of an inappropriate personal relationship with a subordinate staff member, which violates city policy.
“We have a complex conflict of interest code that the city attorney is required to enforce,” Watt said.
Robert Palmer, CBJ city attorney, said that the hospital is part of the city, in the same way as the school district and Eaglecrest Ski Area. As a result, hospital employees are city employees.
“All city employees have to comply with the ethics code. We call that our conflict of interest code,” Palmer said in a phone interview Monday.
In a Monday news release, hospital officials announced the resignation of chief behavioral health officer Bradley Grigg.
“I’m not making any comments on whether there was a connection,” Watt said in a phone interview on Monday.
Watt said he did not know if the CEO search process had included questions about personal relationships.
Watt said that he had talked with Lawhorne and said she’s having a “tough time.”
“It’s difficult. She’s remorseful and she is trying to move on with her life,” Watt said.
Board appoints Interim CEO
The Bartlett Regional Hospital Board of Directors appointed Kathy Callahan to serve as interim CEO and will meet on Friday, Sept. 24, to discuss the recruitment plan for a permanent CEO.
According to the news release, Callahan has a long history of service at Bartlett Regional Hospital, recently retiring as director of physician services.
“I have always admired the incredible work you do, especially during this particularly difficult time in healthcare,” Callahan wrote in an all-staff email on Monday. “Leadership changes can make us feel uneasy, but I want to assure that you have the support of our leadership team.”
In the same email, Callahan also noted that all health care services, including behavioral and mental health programs, will continue with no interruption.
“During this time of transition, everyone at Bartlett remains dedicated to serving the community of Juneau with high quality, patient-centered care,” said Board President Kenny Solomon-Gross in a news release.
Lawhorne was named CEO earlier this year after a nationwide search. As CEO, she earned an annual salary of $320,000.
Lawhorne replaced Chuck Bill, who retired from the post. Chief financial officer Kevin Benson served as interim CEO during the hiring process.
Lawhorne started her career at the hospital in 1993 when she joined the accounting staff and worked her way up the ranks.
She’s spent her entire career at Bartlett. She served as the chief nursing officer, assistant chief clinical officer, senior director, emergency department director, staff nurse and data entry/registration clerk along the way.
In a March interview with the Empire, Lawhorne said she was surprised to find herself in the hospital’s top job.
“It was never a specific goal,” Lawhorne said. “My goal was to serve the community. I’ve just taken opportunities and prepared myself to focus on advancement.”